White House Seeks Comment on Delay Bill

Obama not likely to sign bill into law before Monday, asks for five day public comment period

It looks like the White House won't be signing the bill into law until at least Monday, the same day broadcasters must let the FCC know if they want to pull the plug on analog Feb. 17, which is now early but is the date the government has been telling them was the drop-dead date for years.

President Barack Obama, as part of his pledge of openness and transparency, said he would give the public five days to comment on bills before he signed them.

The text of the DTV delay bill has been posted on the White House Web site along with a comment form.

Broadcasters may make the transition on Feb. 17, but bill co-author Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-WVA), chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee, has asked broadcasters to "put consumers first." The FCC is doing more than asking. Broadcasters must request to make the move by Feb. 9, but the FCC can deny the request if it doesn't think it is in the public interest, say, if all the stations in a market with high analog-only penetration want to go on Feb. 17.

The big problem is that the converter box coupon program slowdown, which prompted the Obama administration's request to move the date, may not be unstuck until March or April, so, the more stations that go Feb. 17, the more the bill's effect is weakened.